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Self-Advocate Robert Zotynia Shares his COVID-19 Vaccination Experience

Robert Zotynia sits in his wheelchair with a face mask and face shield on posing in front of a sign that reads "I Got the Shot. Protecting Myself and Others"Back in March of 2020, Robert Zotynia of Luzerne County was not thrilled when he was told to stay home for the foreseeable future. Robert, a self-advocate, is very active in his community and directs his own services, so he was not too keen on being unable to go out. That is until Robert heard the reason why during an initial COVID-19 briefing by Governor Wolf. At that moment, Robert realized it was his civic duty to stay safe by practicing social distancing along with other preventative measures.

Since last March, Robert and his mother Pamela have been working from home. Robert engages in Participant-Directed Services (PDS). For him, that means he did not experience as much of a lifestyle hiccup when the first stay-at-home order went into effect. "Sheltering at home has been hard for everyone. I'm lucky because I use Participant Directed Services and my staff, who are amazing, and kept working so my life wasn't really disrupted much, except I don't go out!" says Robert.  However, as an employee of Self-Advocates United as 1, Robert has been navigating the digital workplace to figure out how to continue the mentorship training program he leads. 

When the Pennsylvania’s original vaccination rollout plan was introduced, Robert qualified for phase 1B and would therefore have to wait to be vaccinated. But when the Pennsylvania Department of Health revised their COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan at the end of January, both Robert and Pamela became eligible.

The Zotynia’s had been diligent about conducting their own research. Like many, they had their hesitations about the vaccine, but their research and anecdotal evidence concluded that the long-term benefits of inoculation far outweighed the minor short-term side effects (fatigue, pain at the injection site, mild fever).

At the end of January, Robert and Pamela set up an appointment with a local health care provider to receive their first Moderna EUA vaccine doses. On February 4, the pair were in and out of the hospital in a matter of minutes and they were able to schedule for their second doses in the same session. Robert was impressed by how smoothly the experience was for him and his mom.

Robert and Pamela were ready to receive the vaccine when it became their turn. Robert knows how important vaccination is to keeping not only him and his mother safe but his community as well. As the vaccination rollout continues, Robert can’t wait until he’ll be able to be active in the once community again.

"I'm so glad I'm on my way to being fully vaccinated, so I can get back out in the world soon," says Robert, "I know that by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask, I will protect myself and also protect my Mom, my staff and their families, and other people who live in my community. It's the right thing to do and I am glad to do my part!"